When you get married, you are combining two separate lives—and that includes your finances. Unfortunately, combining finances can be one of the most difficult challenges for newlyweds.
To further complicate matters, most people do not look at financial compatibility when they start dating, so when it is time to combine finances, differences of opinions come out, tempers can flare, and there can even be the occasional shock about your partner's spending habits or debt.
If you want to sidestep these surprises after your honeymoon, then avoid these 10 financial mistakes as a newlywed.
Not Having a Long-Term Financial Plan
It is essential that you have a long-term financial plan. This plan should include goals for retirement, homeownership, and starting a family (if you plan to).
Sit down and talk about these things before you get married. Discuss your financial goals, your timeline, your budget, and other issues that you may face. Have this financial plan in place before your wedding day.
Walking in Blind
Another common newlywed mistake is walking into your marriage blind. This means that you never had a discussion about your financial goals, your income, or your debt.
Before you get engaged, have a frank discussion about money. This talk should cover the current amount of savings and debt, any delinquent debts, bankruptcies, and any other financial obligations that each person may have.
This may be a make-it-or-break-it talk when it comes to the relationship, but it is important to address before you combine finances and get married.
Lying to Your Spouse
People often joke about hiding the shopping bags before their spouse gets home, but it can lead to serious financial issues in a relationship.
Be sure that you are both up front when it comes to finances and that you are totally open about your current financial situation. If something feels off when you have the money talk, you should take this as a warning sign and seek counseling before you get married.
Combining Finances Before You Are Married
Most laws are meant to protect married couples, and if you are just living together, you may run into issues down the line if you purchase a home together or take on each other’s debt, then break up. It's a good idea to wait until after the wedding to fully combine your finances.
If you are living together before you get married, you should use a household budget where you both contribute to shared expenses. This protects both of you and helps you to share expenses in a fair way. But when it comes to major financial commitments, it's important to keep some separation. The big idea? Wait until you are married to take on your spouse's debt.
Putting the Wedding or Honeymoon on a Credit Card
You do not want to start your life together by creating a lot of debt. This means that you need to pay cash for your wedding and honeymoon. Although this may mean cutting back on some of the things you want, it will be worth it not to have the payments hanging around for months or years after you are married.
By shopping for deals in advance, you should still be able to create a beautiful wedding on your budget. You can also find great deals on honeymoon trips if you plan ahead.
Refusing to Budget
A budget is the key to being financially successful. It does not matter how much you make if you do not have a plan that helps you with spending it. If you are not willing to sit down and create a budget together, you will not be successful financially.
It is important that there is give and take when it comes to creating a budget. Each partner will have financial priorities, and those priorities may not be the same. It's important that both parties be willing to participate and work toward compromise.
One person should not be doling out an allowance or micro-managing the budget to manage this problem, either. Instead, you need to work together to make a budget that works for your family. If this is proving difficult, attending a financial planning class can help you as you work on it.
Keeping Finances Separate
There are a few valid reasons for keeping your finances separate after you are married. If there have been issues like gambling or severe overspending, you may need to work on building trust before combining your money. Generally, though, combining your finances and budgeting together can help you work more easily toward your financial goals.
This also means that there are no hidden savings accounts, credit cards, or bad money habits. Sit down with each other on a regular basis and make sure you are reaching your goals. If your spouse will not combine finances, they may be hiding a bigger issue.
Ignoring the Warning Signs
Don't ignore financial red flags, no matter how much you love your spouse.
For example, keep an eye on issues like overspending, unwillingness to sit down and talk about finances, or a poor credit score.
Keep in mind that people make mistakes, and if your partner has been working on fixing past financial mishaps, you shouldn't hold it against them. Rather, you should continue to be vigilant and proactive.
Not Working as a Team
In a way, getting married means you're now a team. This applies to your finances, as well.
Avoid overspending, hiding spending from your partner, or not working toward your shared financial goals.
While one person may handle the daily finances and paying the bills, both of you should be in the budget meetings and discussing spending each week. Both of you should track your spending and keep a close eye on your savings, checking, and investment accounts. Neither partner should be surprised by what's going on financially.
The best time to deal with your debt is when you are first married, before you have kids or the added financial stress of owning a home or your own business. You will likely have more disposable income in the early years of your marriage, so use that money to start tackling your debt.
Once you're debt-free, you'll have more available funds and can start working toward your next financial goal, such as buying a home. Ignoring debt early on will only make those dreams harder to attain.
Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.